Finding quality wholesale suppliers is essential to the success of every e-commerce business. Without reliable sources of in-demand products, getting inventory will be a struggle and your business won’t thrive.
While there are many ways to find legitimate wholesale suppliers, locating a supplier specific to your niche may not be as easy as you’d think.
But there are ways you can access wholesale suppliers and be confident that they are legitimate.
Who Are You Looking For?
In order to find your next supplier, you have to know who you are looking for.
There are a lot of companies out there that call themselves wholesale suppliers , but they are not true wholesale companies.
When looking for a legitimate wholesale supplier, your goal is to get the contact information for the manufacturer’s authorized wholesaler. This is the supplier that has been authorized by the manufacturer to resell their products.
The manufacturer sits at the top of the supply chain. This is the person or company who makes the goods. Large manufacturers generally do not sell directly to retailers, although, some small to medium-sized manufacturers will.
With more than 4,000 trade shows held across the U.S. each year, it’s not a question of if you should attend a trade show but rather which one and when. In addition to the U.S., there are thousands of trade shows all over the world, in places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Copenhagen and Barcelona, just to name a few.
No matter what niche market you sell in, there is a trade show for you.
A trade show is a large exhibit designed to bring legitimate wholesale suppliers and retailers together. Trade show exhibitors (the suppliers) showcase their new products at the show. They’re also there to talk to customers (you) and sell products.
Wholesale suppliers must apply to exhibit at the show, and it costs a significant amount of money to rent a booth. This means the suppliers you meet there are serious about doing business.
These events host hundreds or sometimes even thousands of vendors displaying hundreds of thousands of products. You’ll get the opportunity to meet face to face with suppliers, preview the latest merchandise and pick up catalogs at each booth, and write merchandise orders, often at a show discount.
Trade shows are not open to the public. And while you don’t need to be an experienced merchant to attend, knowing the ropes before you get to the show will go a long way toward making it a success.
In Sourcing Products at Trade Shows, you’ll learn the ins and outs of attending a show, how to navigate the trade show floor and the industry insider secrets for making the most of your trip to the show.
Research dates and locations for your next trades how at Trade Show News Network, the global resource for trade show events.
Trade Show Websites
Sometimes it’s not necessary to travel to a trade show. Trade show websites will often provide lists of current and past exhibitors online.
You’ll find the trade show Web sites either at TSNN, or by searching for the name of the trade show in the search engines.
Merchandise Marts are big buildings that house a variety of wholesale manufacturers’ showrooms under one roof. The Chicago Merchandise Mart is one of the largest in the world, and also hosts 16 major trade shows a year.
There are also merchandise marts in big cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. To locate a merchandise mart, you can also Google the keywords “merchandise mart.”
Merchandise marts host permanent showrooms—which means you can visit them all year around. While merchandise marts don’t boast as many suppliers as large trade shows, you can visit hundreds of showrooms nearly any day of the year. Merchandise marts require the same credentials for admittance as trade shows.
While large manufacturers won’t sell directly to retailers, small manufacturers or new companies often will—until they build up their distribution chain.
However, to find the manufacturer’s authorized wholesale distributer for a particular product, you’ll always want to start by calling the manufacturer. The manufacturer is the only one who can authorize wholesale distribution of their products. That’s why you want to start at the source.
Contact the manufacturer, ask for the sales department and tell the sales rep you’re interested in retailing their products. At that point they will let you know if you can purchase the product directly, or they will give you the name of their authorized suppliers.
One of the best resources for finding suppliers for any product, in any industry, is a little-known directory available for free through the public library systems called ReferenceUSA. ReferenceUSA will enable you to find manufacturer and wholesaler contact information for any company in the U.S., and gives you access to the contact information for 12 million businesses.
This online database can be accessed from the comfort of your home. Library systems have to purchase the ReferenceUSA modules, but all major cities have it, as do many smaller cities. To find out if your library has the ReferenceUSA database, call your main library branch and ask. If it doesn’t, library staff can direct you to a library system that does.
Using the search engines to find wholesale suppliers can be fraught with problems, but it’s still possible to find some legitimate wholesale suppliers’ contact information through an online search.
However, there are many pitfalls and dangers inherent in using this method—especially for the untrained eye. Many unscrupulous companies, who call themselves wholesale suppliers, advertise on the Internet. But they are simply online merchants posing as wholesale suppliers, peddling junk and fakes at rock-bottom prices.
Unfortunately, they prey on Internet entrepreneurs, especially newbies.
If you see a “wholesale supplier” advertising Sony cameras at 90 percent off, or Coach handbags at a 50-percent discount, that’s an immediate indicator that this is not a legitimate wholesale supplier. Real wholesale suppliers will never advertise online in this manner.
If you think you’ve located a legitimate wholesale supplier on the Internet, verify the contact information by calling the manufacturer and asking if company “XYZ” is indeed a manufacturer’s authorized wholesale supplier. Most of the time, the answer will be “no.”
When looking for manufacturer-authorized wholesale suppliers, it’s important to do your due diligence. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And if a great supplier is easy to find, look a deeper, because you’ve likely stumbled upon a fake.
Remember, It’s a Numbers Game
Keep in mind when looking for wholesale suppliers that you’ll need to talk to a lot of vendors to find the ones who will work with you, and that you’ll want to work with. You may need to talk to 10, 20 or even 30 vendors to identify five that are right for your business.
Finding the right supplier takes time, so don’t give up on your search!
Once you’ve found a great supplier, dedicate the time and effort to build a relationship with them. For an e-commerce business owner, great supplier relationships are like money in the bank! And your favorite supplier may just give you a hot tip on another good supplier in your niche.
Excellent comments and thoughts. I have been successful finding some new items via videos on YouTube and then finding the manufacturer from there.
YouTube is an excellent place to find ideas for products to sell. There are so many product reviews, companies that are showcasing their own products, and ‘everyday people’ talking about different products they like to use… it’s a good way to tap into what people want!
The ideas are everywhere!
Nice article, Lisa. Here are a few additional pointers that would-be buyers may want to keep in mind.
1. Online sourcing sites are good places to start the search for products and suppliers. For example, the company I work for — Global Sources (www.globalsources.com) — has been connecting buyers worldwide with suppliers in China for 40 years. Suppliers on the site are ”verified,” which in this case means each one has been visited at least 3 times to make sure it is a real exporter.
2. Also, sites such as Smart China Sourcing (www.smartchinasourcing.com) help buyers by offering a range of “how to” articles written by experts on topics such as handling cultural differences, making payments to China manufacturers, minimizing risks, etc.
3. Buyers can also get valuable assistance by attending trade shows, like Global Sources China Sourcing Fairs (www.chinasourcingfair.com) where they can meet face-to-face with suppliers and attend seminars on how to source from China. They can subscribe to sourcing magazines too, such as the 18 industry-specific titles available online free from Global Sources (www.globalsources.com/emag).
Useful information..Thanks for sharing 🙂
thank you for helping me with your strong points in my research.
Is it possible to sell designer handbags online? Will the manufacturers give permission to people to resell them? Who is a reputable source for that? I don’t like these generic sites on the internet that are asking for a monthly subscription fee. Scary. I want some trustworthy, honest sources. I see a lot of new designer bags selling on ebay. Where are the ebay store owners buying them?
Name brand designer handbag manufacturers won’t sell to marketplace sellers. They have requirements to have a brick and mortar store or a website, and have very high minimum orders.
Sellers get their inventory via retail arbitrage but that is now a dicey proposition as Amazon is requiring sellers to purchase directly from the supplier. There are also a lot of fraud claims, so it’s a risky product to sell.